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Quine and Boolos: Are Substitutional and

Model-Theoretic Accounts of Logic

Equivalent? Part 2
Jason Turner

Spring 2010

Quine claims that, for a certain class of languages, the substitutional and
model-theoretic definitions of logical truth are equivalent: (EQ-R) ||= P iff |= P
Which languages? Ones that have two properties:

(P1) They are "rich enough for elementary number theory" (Philoso-
phy of Logic, p. 53).
(P2) They are first-order. (In particular, completeness and a specific
version of the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem hold for them.)

Here are today’s questions:

1. What counts as being "rich enough for number theory"?

2. How is this result consistent with the arguments of section 3 of the last

3. What, exactly, is Quine’s argument? How does it work, and on what

assumptions does it depend?

I won’t tackle these in order, though. I’ll start with 2, and then move on to
3. 1 will be covered at the end.

1 Motivation
Before getting into the nitty gritty, it’s worth taking a step back to ask why we
— or Quine — should care, either about EQ-R or the full EQ.
First, consider Etchemendy’s reaction. Since the EQs hold, at best, only for
a restricted class of languages, Etchemendy will be unimpressed. He wants a
perfectly general analysis that, when thrown an arbitrary language, will gener-
ate proper predictions. Since we know a substitutional account generates bad
predictions for at least some languages, by Etchemendy’s lights there’s no use
continuing to go on about it.
Not so for Quine. As a pragmatist, he has little truck with the notion of an
analysis. (If we could analyze logical consequence, we would have an instance
of synonymy, which he famously decries.) The important question for him is,
“What well-behaved definition will suit us best for our purposes?” And if our
purposes keep us well within the limited class of languages for which an EQ

result holds, then this tells us that, if the model-theoretic account works for our
purposes, so does the substitutional.
For Quine, though, the result also goes two steps deeper. For one thing,
Quine thinks there are reasons to use the substitutional account when we can
for — unlike the model-theoretic one — we don’t have to deploy sets for the
substitutional account. The objection here isn’t quite the “there are no sets, so
let’s be substitutionalists” one — Quine believed in sets, after all, thinking them
indispensable to science — but rather that we should do as much as we can with
as little as we can get away with, so when we’re not forced to appeal to sets for
any other reasons, we should also avoid appealing to them in our definition of
logical consequence.
Second, and most importantly for Boolos, Quine thinks the EQ results give
an argument for identifying “logic” with first-order logic. (There is, I think, a
real issue as to just what this identification means — both for us and for Quine —
but set that aside.) We choose a logic just as we choose other theories: by seeing
which does best at the various theoretical virtues. Since the EQ result, as well
as completeness, apply only to first-order theories, only if logic is first-order
can we collapse proof-theoretic, model-theoretic, and substitutional accounts of
consequence. Quine sees this as a virtue, and thus grist for his “logic-is-first-
order” mill.

2 Reconciliation
Ok, next: resolving the last post’s puzzle. There, we saw that a counting sen-
tence like

(E2) ∃ x ∃y( x , y)

will count as a substitutional, but not a model-theoretic, truth, and thus threaten
a counterexample to (EQ-R). How is Quine not worried about this? The answer
comes a few pages after his argument, where we learn “Truths of identity the-
ory [such as ∀ x ( x = x )] do not count as logical truths under the contemplated
definitions of logical truth, since they are falsifiable by substituting other pred-
icates for =.” (p. 61). Quine does not think that all substitution schemes take
(E2) to (E2), for — unlike what Etchemendy assumed — he does not reckon the
identity predicate as one of the logical constants.
That answers one side of the problem. But in standard textbook model-
theoretic treatments of first-order logic with identity, ∀ x ( x = x ) does come out
true on all models. If this is not to be a further counterexample, Quine had
better have a not-quite-so textbook model theory. And indeed he does. How his
differs from the textbook depends on just what the textbook says.
In some textbooks, the interpretation function of a model does not assign
an extension to =. Rather, satisfaction-conditions for sentences of the form
α = β are hard-wired into the definitions of truth and satisfaction on a model.

In other textbooks, the definitions of truth and satisfaction on a model don’t
treat identity predicates in any special way. But a set h D, I i only counts as a
model if the interpretation function I assigns the set {h x, x i : x ∈ D } to =.
Quine’s model theory differs from the first textbook’s by not having any special
truth-or-satisfaction clause for identity statements, and differs from the second’s
by allowing models to assign different extensions to =. So on Quine’s model
theory, ∀ x ( x = x ) ends up not being a model-theoretic truth either, and the
potential counterexamples are all blocked.
(For those keeping track: this will, clearly, affect Quine’s overall pro-first-
order argument. If he wants to argue that first-order logic is best on the basis
of its collapsing model-theoretic, proof-theoretic, and substitutional accounts of
logical truth, he’ll have to argue that first-order logic without identity is best —
because with identity, first-order logic doesn’t have this property.)

3 The Argument
Here is Quine’s basic argument for EQ-R:

(I) If P is true on all substitution schemes, P is true on all number-theoretic

substitution schemes.

(II) If P is true on all number-theoretic substitution schemes, it is true on all


(III) If P is true on all models, it is true on all substitution schemes.

(C) Therefore, P is true on all substitution schemes iff P is true on all models.

But C is just a restatement of EQ-R. This argument is clearly valid (it’s a

standard proof technique to prove a biconditional P iff Q by proving a string of
conditionals that start with P, go through Q, and end up back at P again.) But
what of the premises?
Some of this, of course, will depend on what ‘number-theoretic substitution
scheme’ means. But whatever it means, so long as these are a kind of substitu-
tion scheme (and they are!), I is trivial. II and III not so much, though, so we’ll
look at Quine’s arguments for them in detail.

3.1 3.a: The Argument for III.

Quine argues for this by appeal to

(COMPLETENESS) If |= P, then ` P

(where ` P represents the provability of P in any standard first-order sys-

tem). His reasoning is apparently something like the following. Where S is
any (logical-term-preserving) substitution scheme whatsoever:

1. Suppose P is satisfied by every model.

2. Then, by COMPLETENESS, it is provable.

3. If Pr is the proof of P, then S( Pr ) is a proof of S( P).

4. Thus, S( P) is provable.

5. Therefore, S( P) is true.

The first thing to note is that the move from 4 to 5 relies on the thought that
falsehoods can’t be proven or, equivalently, that first-order deductive systems are
intuitively sound. ’Intuitive soundness’ is a notion that crops up in eg Kreisel’s
squeezing argument.1 The idea here (as Quine puts it, at any rate) is that, among
the proof systems we can pick, there are some where we can tell, by inspection,
that every individual move takes us from truths to truths. (Or from nothing
at all to truths, as happens when e.g. we write down axioms in an axiomatic
system.) Furthermore, we can tell that stringing together series of moves each of
which preserves truth will also preserve truth. So we can tell, just by inspection,
that there will be no proof of a falsehood. So, since there is a proof of S( P) (line
4), it must be true (line 5).
The second thing to note is that this requires also that, if Pr is a proof, then
S( Pr ) (the result of taking the proof and replacing each sentence Q in it with
S( Q)) is also a proof. This is premise 3. Call proof systems with this property
preservational. Notice that not every proof system we might pick is preserva-
tional. Suppose, for instance, that we chose a truth-tree system where only
contradictions between literals (atomic predications or their negations) were al-
lowed to close branches. A proof of ’R( a) ∨ ∼ R( a)’ will be a tree that starts
with ’∼( R( a) ∨ ∼ R( a))’ and ends with ’R( a)’ and ’∼ R( a)’ closing the (only)
branch. Now consider the substitution scheme that takes ‘R( a)’ to ‘F (b) ∧ G ( a)’.
The tree that you get by taking the above and substituting with this scheme
has ‘F (b) ∧ G ( a)’ and ‘∼( F (b) ∧ G ( a))’ closing, which is not a proper proof of
‘( F (b) ∧ G ( a)) ∨ ∼( F (b) ∧ G ( a))’, because it doesn’t have any contradiction be-
tween literals.
1 Peter Smith <> argues
that there is no genuinely “intuitive” notion of validity (and hence, I imagine, no “intuitive”
notion of soundness); to get Kreisel’s argument off the ground, you need rather a semi-technical
notion first, and then the argument can show some fully technical apparatus sufficient to capture
the semi-technical notion you’ve gotten toward. I think all of that can be accepted while still
accepting that any semi-technical notion of soundness you might end up with has this property:
no proof that is semi-technically sound has all true premises and a false conclusion. And
that’s the strength of premise Quine needs for his argument. Or, to put it differently: call a
proof system materially sound iff there is no proof in that system with true premises and a false
conclusion. (Since the languages are supposed to be interpreted here, if the proof system tells us
which (interpreted) sentences count as proving which, this will be automatically well-defined.)
Every place in the rest of the text where I talk about ‘intuitive soundness’ (including the last
section) would work just as well if I appealed to ‘material soundness’ instead.

This isn’t a huge problem: there are preservational proof systems. And there
are intuitively sound proof systems, too. In fact, there seem to be proof systems
that are both — standard axiomatized systems seem to have both properties.2
And good thing, too, because the argument for III goes through only if there are
proof systems with both properties. Otherwise, we might have intuitively sound
proofs turning into intuitively unsound ones under substitution (violating the
move from 4 to 5), or instead intuitively sound proofs turning into things that
aren’t even proofs (falsifying 3).

3.2 The Argument for II, part 1: Hilbert-Bernays Theorem.

OK, enough of III. It looks secure enough. On to II. Quine’s argument for
it relies on a remarkable theorem, a strengthening of Löwenheim’s theorem
(the finitistic version of the Löwenheim-Skolem theorem), a strengthening first
shown by Hilbert and Bernays:

(HB) If P has a model, it has a constructible model.

A model is constructible iff its domain is a subset of the natural numbers, and
each of its predicate extensions is given by a formula of simple arithmetic. That
is to say: if F is an n-placed predicate and M a constructible model, then there
is some formula A of simple arithmetic, open in n variables, where h x1 , . . . xn i
is in F’s extension on M iff x1 , . . . xn satisfy A. (Note: F is a predicate of the
object-language here, but A is an arithmetical formula of the metalanguage.)
What does it mean to say that a formula is a formula of simple arithmetic?
I take it that it’s a formula that uses the primitive vocabulary used in Peano
Arithmetic. And a sequence of numbers x1 , . . . xn will satisfy A if A( x1 , . . . xn )
is provable from PA, the axioms of Peano Arithmetic.
The argument for II goes as follows. Call a substitution scheme number-
theoretic iff every predicate and term gets replaced for some formula or term of
simple arithmetic. We first use HB to argue for

(HB*) If Q is true on some model, then for some number-theoretic substitution

scheme S, S( Q) is true.

The very basic idea is that, if F is given an extension E on the model, and if
A is the formula of simple arithmetic where h x1 , . . . xn i ∈ E iff x1 , . . . xn satisfy
A, then we can replace F for A. (Notice what’s happening here: A appears
both in the metalanguage and the object language, so we use the metalanguage
characterization of the model (in terms of A) to cook up an object-language
substitution scheme (using A)). If we do this for all of the predicates and terms
2 They are preservational because whether something counts as a proof is entirely schematic
— it depends entirely on whether lines of the proof fit certain schemas — and since the substi-
tution schemes preserve logical constants, they can’t make a sentence stop matching a schema
when it did before. They certainly seem to be intuitively sound, too, although this is perhaps a
more controversial matter.

in Q, we end up with a sentence S( Q) that basically describes the constructible
model we began with, and is true because S( Q) accurately describes that model.
In other words: since Q is true on the model, and S( Q) says, more or less, that
Q is true on the model, S( Q) is flat-out true.
Since HB* is a general principle, it holds even if Q is of the form ∼ P (for any
sentence P):

(HB∼) If ∼ P is true on some model, then for some number-theoretic substitu-

tion scheme S, S(∼ P) is true.

Now take the contrapositive:

(HBC) If for every number-theoretic substitution scheme S, S(∼ P) is false, then

∼ P is false on every model.

But S(∼ P) = ∼S( P), and ∼S( P) is false if and only if S( P) is true. Likewise,
∼ P will be false on a model iff P is true on that model. So (HBC) becomes:

(II) If P is true on every number-theoretic substitution scheme, then P is

true on every model.

This is our II. So we have it — if we can substantiate the move from HB to


3.3 The Argument for II, part 2: "Rich Enough for Elementary
Number Theory".
Can we substantiate that move? That depends on just what we assumed when
we assumed that our object language was “rich enough for elementary number
Here is, I take it, the strongest thing it could mean: our language has symbols
in it that can be correlated with the symbols of elementary number theory (“is
the product of”, “is the sum of”, “is the successor of”, etc.), and those symbols
in fact mean what they need to mean in order for the sentences to really be
about elementary number theory (“6 is the product of 3 and 2” means that 6 is
the product of 3 and 2, and so on), and elementary number theory is true. (So,
for example, no Science Without Numbers-style antirealism for us here.)
For simplicity, we can formulate these three criteria with respect to a formal
elementary arithmetical system, say that of Peano arithmetic, PA. The first cri-
terion says that the language has sufficient syntactic resources to formulate PA.
The second criterion says that, in the formulation in question, the expressions
in fact mean what they are intended to mean in PA. The third says that PA is
If all the foregoing holds, then indeed the move from HB to HB* follows.
We take the satisfiable Q, construct the constructible model for it, and then look
at the mathematical formulae that describe the extensions of the predicates in

that model. If S replaces the predicates for the formulas that describe their
extensions, S( Q) will describe the mathematical structure of the model; since
there really is a model and it really has the mathematical features we think it
does, S( Q) will be a true description of an existing entity, and we’re done.
What if one or more of the various criterion fail? Let’s begin with the case
where we can formulate PA (in our object-language), and this formulation is
true, but doesn’t in fact mean number theory — maybe it’s a true theory de-
scribing, say, a set of points of space and their interrelations, which just happen
to satisfy all of the Peano axioms.
Here’s a strategy for arguing to HB* in this case. The original thought was
that S( Q) was true, because it (more or less) truly described how the con-
structible model was, given that there were numbers and the terms in S( Q)
were talking about these numbers. That is: if PA had been talking about num-
bers, then S( Q) would also have been talking about numbers, and furthermore,
S( Q) would have been true.
PA is true, but it’s not talking about numbers; neither is S( Q). Still, we might
think that S( Q) is true, because we might think that it’s saying something about
it’s actual content (points of space, or whatever) that is structurally isomorphic
to what it would have been saying about numbers if it had been talking about
them, and so should be true about whatever its actual content is if that content is
structurally isomorphic to the numbers. But since PA is actually true (and about
that actual content), S( Q)’s content is structurally isomorphic, and so should be
More precisely, we might try to argue as follows: the reason we thought that
S( Q) would have been true had PA been true and had they both been about
numbers is for the simple reason that PA ⇒ S( Q). The fact that these were
‘about numbers’ didn’t enter into it. But, since PA is in fact true, this means
S( Q) is true, too! Problem solved.
There is, of course, a wrinkle: what do we mean by ‘⇒’ here? We can get
around that wrinkle if we say that PA |= S( Q). Since reality is a model of PA
— that’s one upshot of PA’s being true — reality must also be a model of S( Q),
and so it must be true, too.
This talk of ‘reality’ being a model and so on might be thought a bit too
fluffy to hang a lot of weight on. No worries. By appeal to COMPLETENESS
with respect to an intuitively sound proof system, we can argue as follows:
PA |= S( Q), so there is a proof Pr from PA to S( Q). The proof is intuitively
sound, so if PA is true, so is S( Q). But PA is true; thus, so is S( Q).
This shows us that, so long as PA is true, it doesn’t matter if it ‘means’
number theory or something else. But what if PA isn’t even true? Even though
every model of PA is a model of S( Q), we can’t argue to S( Q)’s truth, because
PA isn’t itself true.
We might be tempted to argue like this. Even though PA is false, it is sat-
isfiable — that is, it has a model. Take a model of PA — call it M — and then
for each predicate F of PA, get an open formula A of our object language that a

sequence satisfies if and only if it is in the extension of F on M. Cook up a sub-
stitution scheme, T, from this; then T ( PA) will be true, and (since PA ⇒ S( Q)),
T (S( Q)) will be true, too. So, even in this case, Q will have a true substitution
instance — the one we get by the substitution scheme T (S(_)).
But this won’t work, for it presumes precisely what it’s trying to prove: that
the existence of a model provides the existence of a true-making substitution
scheme. Even if PA has a model, our object language might lack the resources
to describe that model. This is precisely what would happen if, say, every single
predicate used in formulating PA were empty, and the language had no other
predicates. And it’s exactly the kind of thing Quine’s argument is meant to
assure us won’t happen if the language is “rich enough for simple arithmetic”.
So, in the case where PA is just false, we cannot give a general argument that
there is a substitution scheme under which Q is true. But what if PA is false but,
as it happens to turn out, there is a substitution scheme T under which T ( PA)
is true? Can we then argue to the truth of T (S( Q))?
Yes. As before, we do it through the proof theory. Recall from above that
PA |= S( Q), and that by COMPLETENESS, this means there is a proof Pr from
PA to S( Q). Suppose as before that Pr is a proof of an intuitively sound system,
and suppose (as we did not need to in the case where PA was true) that this
proof system is also preservational. Then T ( Pr ) counts as a proof from T ( PA)
to T (S( Q)), and since the system is intuitively sound and T ( PA) true, T (S( Q))
must also be true. But as we noted above, T (S(_)) itself counts as a substitution
scheme, so there is once again a substitution scheme that makes Q true, and
HB* follows.
Can we say anything about the case where the language doesn’t even have
the syntactic resources to formalize PA? We might think this case hopeless.
But, in fact, it’s not. Suppose our object-language L does not have the syntactic
resources to formulate PA, but suppose a certain extension of this language, L+,
does. Suppose also that there is a substitution scheme T on L+ that takes PA
to T ( PA), where the axioms of T ( PA) count not just as sentences of L+, but
also as sentences of L, and where T ( PA) is true. Then S( Q) will be a sentence
of L+, T (S( Q)) a sentence of L (because T takes all the arithmetical formulae
into something that L has), and the arguments from above show that T (S( Q)) is
true. So there is a substitution schema in L — namely, the one we get by pasting
T and S together in this way — that makes Q true.
Of course, we produced T (S(_)) by appeal to a bigger language, L+. But once
we’ve cooked it up, the scheme itself doesn’t have to appeal to L+ in any direct
way: T (S(_)) takes simple expressions of L to complex expressions of L in a way
that gets the same results as a two-part process that takes simple expressions
of L to complex expressions of L+, and then takes those complex expressions
(by way of T) to other complex expressions of L. But just because we can get to
T (S( Q)) from Q by way of the language L+ doesn’t mean we have to.
The foregoing gives us a fairly definite meaning for a language’s being “rich
enough for elementary number theory”. Say that a language L has a true sub-

stitution instance of PA iff there is some extension L+ of L that has the syntactic
resources to formulate PA and there is a substitution scheme T where T ( PA) is
true and contained entirely in L. Then we have Quine’s conclusion: EQ-R holds
in every language that has a true substitution instance of PA. Since L+ can (but
doesn’t have to) just be L, this includes cases where the language already has
the syntactic resources to formulate PA. And since T can just be the identity
scheme (where each simple expression gets mapped to itself), this includes lan-
guages with formulations of PA that are just true. If there is no such substitution
scheme, identity or not though, then there is no guarantee that the language can
make all the distinctions needed for HB* to be true of it, and so no argument
for EQ-R to be had.

NB: At some point in the last section — specifically, when I start talking
about the case where PA is true but doesn’t mean arithmetic — I make the
assumption (more or less) that PA ⇒ S( P). But this is very non-obvious.
Gödel’s result shows us that there will be arithmetical truths that are not
provable from PA; why think S( P) isn’t one of these?